Malicious hackers have exploited an unpatched vulnerability in the latest version of Firefox to attack people visiting the Nobel Peace Prize website, a Norway-based security firm said on Tuesday.
Mozilla representatives confirmed a "critical vulnerability" in versions 3.5 and 3.6 of the open-source browser. It came several hours after the organization members were said to have made the same admission on this password-protected Bugzilla page.
According to Einar Oftedal, a detection executive at Norman ASA in Oslo, the official website for the Nobel Peace prize, nobelpeaceprize.org, was compromised so that it contained an iframe link to a malicious server.
“This iframe has a multi exploit backend and serves exploits for Firefox, including a working remote exploit for firefox 3.6.11,” he said in an instant message to The Register. “We didn't see any 0day for IE,” he added, referring to Microsoft's browser.
He said the attack exploited a race condition vulnerability in Firefox to force end users to install malware his firm has dubbed Belmoo. The Windows executable was created on Sunday and attempts to connect to several internet addresses, according to his analysis.
If the addresses resolve, “the malware attaches a command shell to the opened socket, giving an attacker access on the local computer with the same rights as the logged on user.” If not, the malware will exit.
If Norman's report proves accurate, it's the first time in recent memory attackers have exploited an unpatched vulnerability in Firefox. Most so-called zero-day attacks are perpetrated against Adobe Reader or Flash Player, Microsoft software and to a lesser extent Oracle's Java. The report is also unusual because the attack didn't appear to target other applications, as is typical with exploit packages.
The reported attack comes less than three weeks after jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize. The 54-year-old former university professor was sentenced in December to 11 years in prison for co-authoring Charter 08, a manifesto that strongly condemned China's one-party Communist government. Beijing considers him a criminal and has voiced its discontent to Norway. ®